Powering up highway charging stations

Driving along the Massachusetts Turnpike, electric vehicle charging stations are popping up at the service plazas, a harbinger of a future without internal combustion engines.

But a new study from National Grid suggests the charging stations are somewhat misleading indicators of the future. The real challenge will not be installing charging stations, but delivering the electricity needed to power those stations.

The study looked at 71 gas stops along major highways in Massachusetts and New York and attempted to calculate how much power would be needed at those locations to enable the shift to electric vehicles.

“What we found was we were off on the magnitude and the timing,” said Colette Lamontagne, director of clean energy development at National Grid. “The amount of load that was going to be required was significantly more than we thought and it’s going to be needed sooner than we thought.”

The study says electric vehicle adoption “has reached a tipping point. It is now accelerating toward mass market adoption, particularly in states [like Massachusetts and New York] taking proactive measures to encourage transportation electrification.”

With more and more electric vehicles on the road, the need for power to run charging stations is increasing. The challenge will become even greater as electric trucks take to the roads. Trucks present a special charging challenge; they require access to chargers capable of delivering huge amounts of electricity in a short amount of time.

By 2030, according to the National Grid study, the electrification of a highway gas station serving mostly passenger vehicles will require as much peak power as a professional sports stadium. By 2035, with electric trucks on the road, the power needs of a truck stop will equal that of a small town. And the power needs will only grow as more and more electric trucks head down the highway.

The only way to deliver that amount of power is by plugging into high-voltage transmission lines, which luckily often track parallel to highways.

Dave Mullaney of the RMI energy research institute, which collaborated with National Grid on the study, said power grids across the country should be able to accommodate the need for more electricity for transportation.

But Lamontagne said the transmission interconnections needed to deliver the electricity can take four to eight years to complete, which means state regulators and utilities like National Grid should get started now to avoid bottlenecks down the road.

“We don’t want to be hampering the adoption of electric vehicles,” Lamontagne said. “We want to be enabling it.”

BRUCE MOHL

 

NEW STORIES FROM COMMONWEALTH MAGAZINE

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– Avangrid says its 1,200-megawatt wind farm is not viable without a price increase because the war in Ukraine, inflation, interest rate hikes, and supply chain issues have wreaked havoc on the project’s finances. The company says a small rate hike should address the problems and allow the project to proceed.

– It’s unclear how the DPU will respond, but the tone of the agency’s original order on November 7 would suggest it won’t be receptive to Avangrid’s argument. Read more.

Baker on CNN: Gov. Charlie Baker invites CNN’s Jake Tapper to his office to share his views on the mid-term election. “I think the biggest issue that played out in the midterms is something that I’ve talked about a lot over the course of the past eight years, which is voters, generally speaking, especially in battleground states, aren’t interested in extremism. They just aren’t,” he said. Read more.

OPINION

Roadmap for commuter rail: Staff from TransitMatters and A Better City collaborate on what might be called an Orange Line roadmap for the future of commuter rail. Read more.

STORIES FROM ELSEWHERE AROUND THE WEB                    

BEACON HILL

Outgoing attorney general – and incoming governor – Maura Healey will have a $9.3 million payout to dole out as she sees fit, the money representing the state’s share of a 40-state settlement with Google for violating state consumer protection laws. (Boston Herald)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Marshfield struggles with how to build more affordable housing with concerns about zoning restrictions and flood zones. (Patriot Ledger)

The Fall River Herald News filed a public information lawsuit against the city, which has denied requests from the paper three times for documents related to the resignation in June of the city’s director of the Department of Community Maintenance. (Herald News)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

A federal judge approves a $58 million settlement for those who fell ill during the COVID-19 outbreak and the families of those who died at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. (MassLive)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Globe columnist Joan Vennochi says Liam Kerr, cofounder of a group pushing the Democratic Party to embrace more centrist candidates, got it wrong in a CommonWealth opinion piece singling out Sen. Elizabeth Warren for blame over House losses by Democrats. “Warren’s passion is worth any pain she gives to centrists — and more than worth the pain she gives to the powerful men she calls to account on behalf of the public,” Vennochi says.

ELECTIONS

In the end, says columnist Jack Spillane, it wasn’t the progressive activists across the county – and beyond – but the working-class residents of New Bedford who sent Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson packing in last week’s election, delivering 61 percent of their vote to his Democratic challenger, Paul Heroux, who ousted the veteran Republican. (New Bedford Light)

Voters in at least a dozen communities vote in favor of a nonbinding referendum question asking Beacon Hill lawmakers to make their committee votes public. (Salem News)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The boom in Boston’s lab space development may be hitting the skids. (Boston Globe)

Gaming regulators worry that national sports betting ads run on local stations could run afoul of future Massachusetts laws regulating sports betting ads once the industry launches. (MassLive)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT\

The EPA is working on a two-year project to clean up the Neponset River. (Patriot Ledger)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Massachusetts firefighters appeal to the courts for relief after a promotional exam for firefighters is canceled due to a court decision that a similar exam for police officers was biased. (Telegram & Gazette)

MEDIA

Nancy Barnes, the senior news executive at NPR and former editor of the Houston Chronicle and Minneapolis Star Tribune, was named the new editor of the Boston Globe, succeeding Brian McGrory, who plans to step down at the end of the year. (Boston Globe)

Karen Hensel, a former NBC Boston reporter who was fired in 2019 for allegedly engaging in an inappropriate relationship with the Auburn police chief, is now suing the station in federal court, charging that she was the sexually harassed by a female colleague at the station. (Boston Globe)

A fake tweet caused panic at Eli Lilly and may have cost Twitter millions of dollars in ad revenue. (Washington Post)

GBH politics editor Peter Kadzis is retiring after a 50-year run in journalism, half of it at the now defunct Boston Phoenix where he was editor. (Boston Globe)